Money is crucial to securing a stable and comfortable life. But pre-Covid, our obsession with wealth was reaching dangerous heights—now, we must rebuildby Paul Dolan / July 27, 2020 / Leave a comment
In a major speech focussing on the government’s plan to revive the post-Covid, Boris Johnson recently promised to “build back better, build back greener, build back faster.” But if the pace of economic growth remains the only measure of success, then “faster” will dominate “better” and “greener,” as it has done for years. Building back differently to before will require us to measure the quality of economic growth as well as its quantity.
It also requires us to restructure our psychological landscapes as well as our physical ones. Above all else, perhaps, it requires us to rein in our individual and collective addiction to getting richer. Poverty , after all, does cause misery and those who say that money doesn’t buy happiness often do so from a position of privilege. More wealth will improve the wellbeing of the worst off in society.
But, at the same time, many people have become so addicted to getting richer that they get to a point at which more money will have no effect—and sometimes even a negative effect—on the quality of their life. Some of you reading this may already be aware of this. Perhaps you have been putting in extra hours to get that pay rise or to impress your boss, which has placed a strain on some of your most important relationships. The quality of our personal relationships strongly predicts our happiness, as we can all attest from lockdown. Whatever your own experiences of the past few months, the crisis provides us all with the opportunity to reflect on our personal and professional priorities.
You can use these insights in the decisions you make on behalf of other people. As a business leader or politician, you may already recognise the need for progressive taxes on wealth. Public spending will be vital as we seek to mitigate the harms caused by the lockdown. Additionally, you need to properly engage with people across the range of incomes to help us all overcome our societal addiction to wealth accumulation. This requires interventions analogous to those found to be effective in the treatment of individual addicts, through a two-step process.
Acceptance is the first step of any effective behaviour change. So you must accept that many of your fellow colleagues and citizens are collectively addicted to wealth when they are either already past the point at…